Saturday, September 09, 2017

The English Reformation was like Mao’s Cultural Revolution of the 20th century

Did you ever wonder why the Crawley family of the fictional Downton Abbey TV series lived in an abbey?  “There are many old country houses in the UK called "xxxxx Abbey", due to the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1538, after which the land and the buildings themselves were sold to the wealthy.”  (Quora) “In Apr 1536, there were over 800 monasteries, abbeys, nunneries and friaries that were home to over 10,000 monks, nuns, friars and canons. By April 1540 there were none left. Much of the property was bought by or granted to landowners; monastery churches were sometimes converted to parish churches, while some buildings, such as Tintern Abbey, were left to ruin.”

“One of Eamon Duffy’s key resources [The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England, 1400-1580] are the extant last wills and testaments. By collecting the data from wills he was able to trace the changes in English religion that Henry VIII and his officers enforced. Put simply, the wills made by Catholics before Henry VIII’s break with Rome expressed simple belief and enthusiasm for the Catholic faith.

In their wills the English provided for Masses to be said for the repose of their souls. They left funds for the maintenance of the church and her services. They left money to build extensions to churches and monasteries, provide for bells, vestments, altar cloths and candles. They provided funding for the poor, left money in their wills for schools and hospitals, and left endowments for colleges and orphanages.

In short, the wills are evidence of the health and vigor of the Church in England just before Henry VIII enforced the destruction of English Catholicism.

Similarly, the wills after the break with Rome reflect the new understanding of the faith. The old clauses granting funds to the Church and all her good works began to disappear. Being taught that Masses for the repose of their souls were pointless, they stopped providing for them in their wills. Being taught that religious art, vestments, stained-glass windows and statues were vain or idolatrous, they stopped leaving money for such things. They no longer left money for the poor, but left it for their relatives.

England in the Middle Ages was referred to as “Mary’s Dowry.” The churches, cathedrals, monasteries, convents, colleges and shrines were wealthy. There was corruption, certainly. Wherever there is a concentration of money and power there is bound to be corruption. But Duffy shows that the state of the monasteries and of religious life in England was robust, dynamic and strong.

Henry VIII’s depredations were about more than wanting to marry his mistress and have a male heir. He and his commissioners had also spotted that the monasteries and churches provided rich pickings. The king himself grabbed vast amounts of land for the crown and he awarded his faithful subjects with rich prizes of religious houses and their lands and goods.” Catholic England

No comments: